Transforming what’s possible in media & entertainment with AI

September 12, 2019
AI

Artificial Intelligence has gone from the pages of science fiction to “all around you” like Dolby Surround Sound rather menacingly informs you at the start of every movie. Conversations that might have sounded ridiculous even five or ten years ago are commonplace now. The days of associating AI with humanoid Asimov-type robots are over: from healthcare to shopping to finance, AI is everywhere.

Conversational AI has quietly changed the game for customer service and what companies can achieve with digital interfaces. Chatbots are ubiquitous – in banking, online shopping, food delivery – but we don’t necessarily register their presence. The idea, after all, with these intelligent robotic helpers, is that they should make the experience as natural as possible. With advancements in Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and advanced Text-to-Speech, we should be able to achieve conversation so natural, so smooth, that we don’t miss human customer service agents.

It is an exciting time for AI in the media and entertainment space. Virtual reality is pushing the boundaries of world-building and immersive gaming experiences. A few years ago, IBM’s Watson stitched together the movie trailer for the horror movie Morgan, the first to be entirely created by AI. Now, Netflix changes its thumbnails to cater to each viewer, refining what is displayed based on the content being consumed. Like romance? You’ll most likely see couples laughing or looking at each other. Prefer action? You’ll see fighting or a character in action, running or jumping. Individual hero’s journeys? Noble, solitary figures. Heartwarming dramas? Families laughing together.

But while the algorithms of streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu are advanced and always evolving, they are rather blinkered. In attempting to “predict the unpredictable” – people’s preferences – they rely overwhelmingly on the history of what people have consumed, i.e., on past watches. Overly preoccupied in this way with analyzing past behavior, they keep returning similar predictions. People, though, have diverse preferences and varying moods. They don’t always want to consume the same kind of content and don’t always like the same genre or the same content creators. They tire of being offered the same fare over and over.

Imagine this: on a quiet Saturday evening, you sit down with your partner to watch a movie or a good TV show. It’s been a hectic week, and you look forward to kicking back with your loved one. But after what feels like hours of back and forth, despite your multiple subscriptions and the veritable cornucopia on offer, you still haven’t been able to pick one that you’re both in the mood to watch. Eventually, you just give up and pick something you’ve already watched a thousand times.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Somehow, with unprecedented access to content in this “golden age of television” and streaming services, ‘what to watch’ has become a common conundrum. In Disney’s Jungle Book, the vultures with their Beatle-like mops of hair spend a few minutes volleying whatcha wanna dos and I don’t know, whatcha wanna dos back-and-forth. Today that conversation runs something like this:

“What do you wanna watch?”
“I don’t know, what do you wanna watch?”

The good news is that with advancements in Deep Learning and Cognitive AI, and rich media chat platforms, perceptive bots capable of picking up context cues and learning from conversation can now help you figure out what to watch (What are you in the mood for?). We now have the capability to develop an affable, intelligent bot with the sophistication and adaptability to help you narrow down your broad preferences.

If all you have is a vague preference for something funny, for instance, you can type in ‘funny movie.’ Our helpful bot will return a large variety of movies that can be classified as funny, ranging from mildly humorous to laugh-out-loud hilarious, from slapstick and romantic comedies to subtle black comedy and political satire. You’ll be able to peruse this wide selection and decide what appeals to you in the moment. Suppose that you decide you’d rather watch something a little dumb in the moment that doesn’t require too much thought; you can go ahead and type in, “slapstick.”

Our bot will return an assortment of slapstick from Chaplin-era classics like Modern Times to Jim Carrey’s unique brand of physical comedy and Nancy Meyer’s romantic comedies.

That’s it, you think. I’m in the mood for a nice, light Nancy Meyer movie.

You tell the bot “Nancy Meyer movies,” select one that looks good, and, happily, your usual conundrum is solved in just a couple of minutes.

Of course, the bot is capable of much more. It holds repositories in multiple languages and can show you a selection from more than one language if you are multi-lingual. It can show you recommendations and suggestions based on past choices, switch languages if you don’t prefer English, ask for clarification if it’s not sure what you’re looking for and learn from experience. It can grow with feedback, picking up vocabulary and understanding a larger number of requests every day, making and storing new connections, and constantly analyzing trends and conversation flows.

And the bot has a persona of her own! She’s a movie buff– err, bot– herself! She will quote dialogues to you, tease you a little and suggest that you try this particular fan favorite. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, she’ll suggest an alternative. She’ll even ask if you want to check out any of these movies that have been generating buzz, or if you want to give one of these Oscar contenders a shot. And she’ll try to broaden your horizons by suggesting different genres, edgy and experimental TV, and avant-garde movies. Like any good librarian, she’s not only here to help you find something that you’ll enjoy; she’s here to help you find something you didn’t even know you’d enjoy.

Nirvik Mitter
Nirvik Mitter
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Transform the air traveler experience

July 10, 2019
AI

Every business can benefit from improving customer experience and increasing employee productivity, but for industries affected by volatile external factors, this is especially essential. The airline industry faces unavoidable risk from the weather, fluctuating fuel costs, and geo-political events, among other external variables. But while these factors remain to a large extent outside their control, airlines often experience higher levels of customer dissatisfaction and decreased worker satisfaction and productivity as a result.

Customers, too, have changed. They’re fickle and swap providers without hesitation. There are several behavioral factors impacting airline customer loyalty today:

  • Frequent-flier programs have become more complex and spend-based. They lack differentiation, putting the loyalty of even the most frequent of frequent fliers at risk.
  • We live in an era in which mobile app engagement has become increasingly difficult. Users have become extremely selective about the apps they choose to download and keep on their phones.
  • The rise of messaging platforms and their growing capability for more sophisticated functions than just text, including visual cards and voice, has opened up a whole new medium for user engagement.

Research shows that airline companies are recognizing the mounting importance of improving digital interfaces. The market for AI in aviation is expected to reach $2.2 billion in 2025 And indeed, according to SITA’s Passenger IT Trends Survey 2017, nearly 90% of customers book their flights using self-service technologies. 64% of passengers check-in online and passenger satisfaction is significantly higher when baggage collection and tracking is automated.

In this climate, it has become vital to give customers the convenient, personalized digital experience they have come to expect across the board, from booking to in-flight entertainment to baggage tracking. In a hyper-competitive industry, airlines are scrambling to make the customer experience accessible, enjoyable and convenient. While the ability to predict and ameliorate the impact of external factors remains limited, it is imperative for airlines to focus on what they can control: the user experience.

The popularity of messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Skype and WhatsApp provides a readymade user base for airlines. And with the sheer volume of users on these platforms today (Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion users), it just makes sense to leverage that base. A chatbot on these platforms can provide all the functionality of a mobile app without the hassle of downloads or registration. Accessing and using a chatbot is as simple as adding a contact to the messaging platform.

A sophisticated, customizable chatbot can transform the user experience for every customer – be it the jet-setting frequent flier or the deal-seeking budget-conscious vacationer. With NLP and guided language flow, bots can be intuitive and easy-to-use. They can expedite anything from booking to check-in to baggage tracking and will proactively notify customers about the status of their flight, gate changes and pre-departure information. While booking a flight, results can be sorted by price, departure and arrival time, number of stops and duration of flight. Although this functionality is already available on mobile apps, a bot provides much-needed simplification and streamlining of access.

At PopcornApps, we believe in building innovative solutions that address a business objective or the pain point of an industry.

Our bot extends support across enterprise functions. It can help employees and ground staff with disruption management to alleviate long lines at counters. It can provide boarding assistance at gates and allow gate agents to respond promptly to queries about seat assignments and baggage check, while they focus on their core responsibility to turn around flights safely and efficiently at the gate. It can also send notifications to on-call staff, seek confirmations if they need additional staff, and offer live polling support for shift bidding.

Our bot also assists with customer support – FAQs (baggage allowance, tracking, insurance, routes, in-flight menu and entertainment), PNR management (reservation, changes and cancellation), Member and Frequent Flier queries, and case management. With its multilingual capabilities, it can also do this in Spanish! Or another language of your choosing.

We use the Microsoft Bot Framework, leveraging APIs and existing infrastructure, to create a versatile bot that can be deployed in multiple channels with minimal work. We’ve partnered with Amadeus, the Global Distribution System (GDS) services company that manages the passenger service systems of more than 200 airlines worldwide, and have a working prototype with Sabre, another significant GDS company. We can adapt our template to various platforms including Facebook Messenger, Skype, Cortana, Kik Messenger and web chat, as well as create custom apps.

We’ve already created highly successful chatbots for the UK Rail and Indian Railways (one of the largest railway systems in the world). With our partnerships, tech expertise, and understanding of the industry, we nimbly engineer custom solutions that are cost-effective yet top-of-line, efficient and uniquely suited to your organization.

Your perfect chatbot is just a click away.

Samvit Raina
Samvit Raina
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The Future of Engaging Mobile Experiences #BotsThatBond

September 18, 2017
AI

Chatbots fulfill these customer expectations...

There’s been a lot of buzz around chatbots lately and it’s growing louder by the day.

We think, and the statistics back us on this, that strong business imperatives are driving this chatter around chatbots. You may already be familiar with some of these imperatives. Take this one for instance –

Your customers are millennials and they prefer using messengers and chats for most if not all their communication needs.

But, this fondness for chat isn’t the only thing driving enterprise adoption of chat bots. Changes in customer and employee behavior and expectations are playing a part too. To illustrate how, we pick a few stats that reflect customer expectations on support issues and show how chatbots are catering to these expectations:

Chatbots fulfill these customer expectations…

  1. They allow a business to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout the year.
  2. They enable communication through messages and are delivered via popular messaging apps like Facebook messenger, Skype, Slack or just simply on a web portal.

Clearly, bots help you engage your customers in a manner they prefer. But that’s just one of the reasons why businesses are adding chatbots to their digital customer service mix. There are others.

Chatbots provide contextual, timely and up-to-date information to users (in a conversational style via chat). By providing the right information proactively or in response to a query, chatbots drive greater efficiency, engagement, and productivity amongst different user groups.

Sounds interesting? Let’s explore ways to actualize these impacts for your business by examining a few simple use cases:

#Impact 1: Better Customer Engagement

If an enterprise provided proactive and intelligent conversational experience to its customers, customer satisfaction is likely to increase. For e.g. wouldn’t it be nice for a customer to see proactive notification of a delay on her scheduled flight along with suggestions on alternative flights? And would it not be even better to see that notification around the time she leaves for the airport or before?

#Impact 2: Greater Efficiency

Accurate information should just be a message away. wouldn’t it be nice for a customer to simply ask “What is the status of my order?” and not only be provided with the current status but also be prompted to receive automatic future notifications as the order progresses through the supply chain?

Transport and Logistics giant UPS is using a (AI powered) chatbot to meet customers where they are. The bot allows UPS customers to track orders, get a shipping quote or find a UPS location.

#Impact 3: More Productivity

Employees often work through systems with cumbersome processes and navigation. Enhancing employee productivity not only helps an enterprise financially but productive workers are known to be happier workers. Examples for mundane yet important tasks that chatbots can help with: updating availability on a calendar could be as simple as messaging “I am available from 2 pm – 4pm on September 20.”

These are just a few simple examples. As technology matures and platforms bring more capability to forefront, bots can add more value to users and cater to solving more complex tasks.

Finally, it all boils down to this:

To Bot or Not?

Most of the world has shifted to mobile-first. As this trend progresses, audiences everywhere will start demanding more engaging mobile experiences. And businesses will need to launch a new-generation of products and/services that rely on Artificial Intelligence engines, cognitive services and improvements in NLP engines to cater to the demand!

So, do you have a request that should be a message away?

Anish Matthai
Anish Matthai
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